This story pretty much embodies what I’m talking about when I’m talking about next level gearheads. You feel like you know what the hell you’re doing? Feel like you’d do fairly well for yourself – if there was just the right opportunity to be your own boss? Guess what. You have what it takes.
I’m pretty excited about this one. At least a couple times a month, I get some poorly worded email asking me to do some kind of link exchange or publish some kind of keyword-laden piece of marketing garbage for a company or an offer to assist with SEO from someone who doesn’t even have his own domain. Get a life.
GBXM OFFICIAL PARTNER!
Michael Dash found me on LinkedIn, obviously took the time to review my profile, clearly spent more than a little time checking out GBXM, and sent me an email asking if we might do paid content. As a matter of fact – we do.
We call it our Official Partners Program. (Yes, yes. You could say we’re down with OPP.) It’s not something I’ve ever really pushed, but it’s never been far from my mind. (I’d like to do this for a living one day, after all.)
You can read more about OPP through that link in the last paragraph. Suffice to say, Michael’s email was clearly written to me, personally, based on a sincere interest in GBXM. We started emailing back and forth.
Over the course of about a week, I learned a lot about Michael and his company – CarPartKings.com – and, the more I learned, the more excited I got. Not because [disclaimer] CarPartKings provided me with a couple hundred bucks in parts I need to get my new truck baselined and ready for reliable, daily driver duty, [/disclaimer] but because their website had more of the stock replacement parts I was after than all but maybe one other site PLUS they’re building out their catalog to include performance aftermarket bits, too.
I got spark plugs, a few top end gaskets, and a K&N filter. In time, I suspect I’ll be able to get wheel bearings, tie rod ends, and a brake upgrade – all from one vendor. GBXM isn’t in the business of pimping ourselves to advertisers, but we ARE in the business of getting you stories you won’t find anywhere else.
Some people have already stopped reading because they misunderstand and take this as paid advertising. In a way, yeah, it is, BUT this is a gearhead who started an automotive business with a friend, offering product, selection, and price that genuinely makes me excited. I could easily drop a grand with them right now – but my new car budget is shrinking rapidly and I need to confirm a few things before I click that “buy now” button.
I hope you’ll read through, feel as inspired as I do, and show someone who believed in GBXM enough to make a difference in my life our/my recommendation is worth a closer look. Thanks in advance!
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[bd] We’ll start high level. You’re co-founder and CEO of Car Part Kings, one of the largest online performance and automotive parts sellers on the web these days. What lead to your decision to start such a company?
[md] I have always been interested in building and creating by finding out how pieces fit together. Cars were a passion from a young age, my father has been working on a ’72 Porsche 911 for the past 25 years, and the parts that went into the car always fascinated me.
Early in my career, I worked as a construction project manager on multi-million dollar skyscrapers throughout Manhattan. I love the process of ground up management as it takes a detail oriented, highly organized mindset to get the job done. Moving pieces are my life, making them work together is an art form that drives my motivation.
Moving pieces are my life, making them work together is an art form that drives my motivation.
I became really close friends with the CTO of the previous start-up I was involved in. We decided when the time was right we would try and make something work together. I knew I lacked the technical chops to build an e-commerce company from the ground up. He comes from a highly technical background and has built out Fortune 500 network systems with nearly no infrastructure in place. His passion is conquering highly complex challenges through technology.
When the opportunity arose to launch our own e-commerce company, auto parts was the first segment I looked into. We saw an old fashioned industry that needed updating. Websites were difficult to use and cluttered, parts ordering seemed antiquated and it was nearly impossible to find the parts you needed at a good price and quick. We decided to solve this problem. Little did I know how difficult the task ahead would be, however, I couldn’t be happier that we made the leap.
[bd] In which makes and models does Car Part Kings specialize?
[md] We cast a very large net. We have nearly 2.5 billion fitments for nearly 35k different vehicle Year, Make, [and] Model combinations. That being said, our top sellers usually include larger brands such as Ford, Chevy, Honda, Nissan, Toyota, GMC, BMW, Subaru, etc. We stock parts for domestic and import vehicles, ranging from brakes, exhaust, suspension, engine, electrical, HVAC. You name it – we probably have it.
We only sell brands we know and trust. Our focus is on the aftermarket replacement sector, however, we do carry performance and body as well. Eventually we want to be your one stop shop to fix your vehicle from end to end.
[bd] I’ve spoken to a number of niche players in this industry, specializing in specific platforms or communities, over the years. Many of them have told me how they experienced the crush of data specificity and decided to stay in their niche. How daunting a task is a catalog this size and how have you ensured accuracy and such?
[md] I definitely underestimated the difficulty of selling auto parts online. Car parts are probably the most complex product that you can purchase on the internet. Every car is so fitment specific you cannot just purchase a random set of brake rotors online, you must be sure they fit your 99 Ford F-150 with a V8 5.4L engine and RWD. If a customer gets the wrong parts because of bad data, they are going to be pissed.
If a customer gets the wrong parts because of bad data, they are going to be pissed.
Our catalog is at nearly 500k SKUs [stock keeping units – think: part numbers] and growing – each SKU fits approximately 50 cars. That makes up nearly 2.5 billion fitments to manage constantly. It is a database nightmare, but it also makes for a high barrier to entry into the industry. If you don’t have the technical chops, you are not going to succeed.
We ensure our data is accurate by doing the cataloging ourselves. There are plenty of sources out there that will license you the data, however, they are inaccurate and status-quo. We do not settle, we hunt down the necessary data and normalize it so it’s user friendly and manageable. It’s a daunting task but thats what we relish. We believe in our data, therefore we ensure all orders are covered with free shipping, free returns, and a free two-year warranty.
[bd] I think we’ve come to take for granted all the ways technology has impacted our lives. We have access to more information than at any point in history.
Used to be, you had to do your research at the parts counter, then wait for the part to come in from a warehouse somewhere.
You’re handling more data than I think many of us can even comprehend. Methinks the overall process hasn’t really changed, but the logistics behind it have. What, exactly, happens between when I submit payment on your website and the part arrives on my doorstep?
[md] The process of looking up parts as a consumer has become a lot more manageable and accessible. If you know your vehicles specifications (year, make, model, engine size) you can generally find the part you are looking for. In some circumstances we do require a bit more information, such as an ECM/ECU – we need the OEM number off the old unit to ensure it works perfectly with the car or truck. As you said, technology makes the process of purchasing car parts easier than ever.
Once an order is placed on our website or over the phone with one of our customer service team members, a receipt is immediately sent out to the customer for reference and records. Our back-end system immediately checks our databases for all warehouse locations that show the parts in-stock. We then select the closest shipping hub to the customer’s provided shipping address and route the order to that particular warehouse.
The warehouse then sends a picker to pick and pack that part and a label is created. The tracking number for that order is entered by the warehouse shipping software into our back-end system and the customer is emailed a tracking number on their order. This closes the loop on the order ensuring that the customer receives the part they need as fast as possible and are able to track the entire process.
[bd] Some people might think you’ve “made it” and no longer have anything to worry about, seeing as Car Part Kings is so big. We’ve already gone into the challenges of sourcing and maintaining the data required to perform at this level. As you think about where CPK is going these days, what challenges are you facing and how do you, personally, go about overcoming them?
[md] There is never a time where I do not have to worry about something related to the business. As you grow, so do your problems (As the great Notorious B.I.G. said, Mo Money Mo Problems). Managing these huge data sets, ensuring website uptime, increasing traffic to the site, sourcing material, maintaining warehouse stock levels, guaranteeing the highest levels of customer satisfactions, dealing with returns/exchanges, purchasing prices, and about a million other issues arise daily that must be dealt with.
People often think if you have your own business you get to make the rules and make your own hours – the truth is you are always working.
It is a 24/7/365 a day job. People often think if you have your own business you get to make the rules and make your own hours – the truth is you are always working. I work longer and harder now that I run my own company than I ever have before because I am responsible for the success or failure of CarPartKings.
[bd] “The truth is you are always working.” Let’s set the company line aside for a moment (is that possible? haha). Despite the relatively extraordinary level of commitment required running a successful business, many would say “it’s worth it.” Why would you subject yourself to such a thing? Would you recommend this lifestyle to anyone? Why or why not?
[md] I couldn’t be happier with what we have built. It is an extremely satisfying feeling to know that, as a direct result of all the hard work, you can support yourself and others. Providing a much needed service while creating opportunity for others is very gratifying. I personally have a very hard time working for someone else, knowing that all my time and effort is going into something that could potentially make them successful when I could be doing it myself.
The lifestyle is not for everyone, you need to be extremely committed to what you are doing – self reliant and a risk taker.
The lifestyle is not for everyone, you need to be extremely committed to what you are doing – self reliant and a risk taker. It may be a cliché, however, if you’re not willing to fail you will never truly succeed. I can’t tell you how many times ideas we have tried to execute have been a total flop. Money and time wasted followed by anxiety and depression.
Those failures teach you so much, if you can take a step back and look at it from a larger perspective, you can truly see what needs to be done to get the job done. New ideas spawn and you take a new risk that hopefully pays off. It may be gambling, but I would always put the odds in my favor when I am betting on myself.
[bd] What parallels do you see between building/modifying/racing a vehicle and building/growing a competitive business?
[md] Building, modifying or racing a vehicle and building a growing business carry an abundance of similarities. To start you need a basic idea of what you want, i.e. “I’m going to repair this ’68 Mustang Fastback like McQueens from the ground up.”
You must go out and find a great deal on the frame to build the project off of. Without solid bones the vehicle will be useless. Similarly in business, you must think of an idea you believe to be as valuable and useful to others as that Mustang is to you. If others are as passionate about your idea and are engaged, you have a great base to build off of.
You then begin to slowly start gathering the tools and parts needed to make the repair. This doesn’t happen overnight, it takes research, preparation and a well thought out budget. What will it cost to repair this car so that I am able to eventually sell for a maximum profit? Even if I use it for the rest of my life and pass it down to my children, will it be an asset to them or just a money pit? Same goes for business, the research involved in building out a budget to run your company will be vital to its success.
Do you know how to repair the car yourself or are you going to need a trained mechanic to help you? If you don’t have the necessary skills, is it something you are passionate about learning? Can you race the car or will you be leasing it out as a racing vehicle to make money? Do you have the sales skills required to sell it if you want to turn a buck?
All of these questions will help you to determine what is needed to see the project through to completion. If you don’t have the talent to do it yourself, can you find it for a reasonable price? If/when you do find it, you should invest in learning what it takes so next time around you can do it yourself a get more out of the project. All apply within business building.
At the end of the day it is about passion, determination, organization, and work ethic. If you put all these tools to good use, you will no doubt succeed in building your dream car or your dream company.
. . .
A picture is worth 1,000 words, but a metaphor is worth 1,000 pictures. I don’t think I can put it any better than Michael did right there. GBXM is all about helping gearhead build high performance machines & lives. It’s about gearheads like us figuring out how we can modify every aspect of our lives just like we can improve every aspect of any vehicle.
I hope you enjoyed this conversation. In a month or so, I’ll be working with Michael again. He’s going to introduce to me to a couple people I can’t wait to interview for you – and we’re going to see what we can do about CarPartKings being a sponsor for the Death Valley Rally-thing later this year.
In the meantime, I really hope you’ll make the jump over to CarPartKings.com and have a look around. Check the selection. Check the prices. Check that thoroughly modern website that’s so easy to use.
Like I said, I’m thrilled to get some free parts out of this partnership, but I’m even more excited about finding a solid, go-to source for car parts.